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Incoming Penn State College of Medicine graduate students take oath, receive white coats

Penn State College of Medicine welcomed 109 new graduate students during ceremonies on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18. The students will study anatomy, biomedical science, biostatistics, clinical research, epidemiology, laboratory animal medicine, neuroscience and public health.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students celebrated the start of their new academic work in two ceremonies to allow for social distancing. Live video of the events was available for friends and family.

The students also took part in orientation where they learned about safety, diversity and inclusion, curriculum, stress management, career services and other resources at the College of Medicine.

Zari McCullers, a biomedical sciences PhD student from Frederick, Md., said she was excited to start her studies and hopes to research alcohol addiction’s impact on the brain. She chose the College of Medicine because of its research programs and the ability to rotate through different disciplines during the first year.

“I like the idea of having mentors from different programs,” she said. “It is a broader education and gives me the flexibility to consider various fields of study.”

McCullers added that she also chose the College of Medicine because of the tranquility of Hershey and friendliness of people she has encountered.

“I’ve met a lot of happy people,” she said. “It seems like a great atmosphere here.”

Students recited the traditional graduate student oath during the ceremonies. They vowed to uphold the values of integrity, professionalism and scholarship throughout their academic careers. The College first hosted the oath ceremony a decade ago to help students mark their transition from undergraduate to graduate school.

Dr. Charles Lang, associate dean for graduate studies, is thrilled the College of Medicine is holding in-person classes again. During orientation, he said, students were very engaged and energized to be interacting in person with their peers.

“It is great to have students back on campus,” he said. “The faculty is just as excited as the students.”

McCullers said the oath ceremony is an important introduction for new graduate students. She said receiving her white lab coat was a memorable moment. She will be the first person in her family to pursue a PhD in science.

“I am going in with a clear mind, an open mind and ready to learn a lot,” she said, adding that as a black woman she also wants to set an example for others that a PhD program is achievable for anyone.

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